Iran said on Sunday it would further scale back its commitment to the 2015 nuclear deal, raising its uranium enrichment level beyond agreed levels to produce fuel for power plants.
The announcement signalled a growing challenge to escalating US sanctions pressure.
In a news conference, senior Iranian officials said Tehran would keep reducing its commitments every 60 days, unless signatories of the pact moved to protect it from US sanctions, but they left the door open to diplomacy.
Before the deal was sealed, Iran produced 20% enriched uranium needed to fuel its Tehran reactor and the level of enrichment for its southern Bushehr nuclear power plant was 5%.
“We will enrich uranium based on our needs … right now we don’t need to enrich uranium needed for Tehran reactor,” said Behrouz Kamalvandi, Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization spokesman.
“We will enrich uranium to the level that is needed for the Bushehr reactor.”
Macron steps in
In a sign of heightening Western concern, French President Emmanuel Macron said he and Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani had agreed to seek conditions for a resumption of dialogue on the Iranian nuclear question by July 15.
Israel says increase ‘moderate’
Reacting to the announcement, Israel’s energy minister described the increase as moderate on Sunday but accused Tehran of breaking out of internationally agreed limitations on its nuclear projects and moving towards a potential bomb.
“Iran has begun – while it is a moderate rise right now – but it has begun to raise, to break out of the uranium enrichment curbs that were imposed on it,” Yuval Steinitz, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s security cabinet, told Israel’s Ynet TV.
“It means … that it is brushing off the red lines that were agreed (and) that it has begun its march, a march that is not simple, toward nuclear weaponry.”
Long-tense relations between Tehran and Washington took a turn for the worse in May 2018 when US President Donald Trump pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal reached before he took office, and reimposed sanctions.
Under the pact, Iran can enrich uranium to 3.67% fissile material, well below the 20% it was reaching before the deal and the roughly 90% suitable for a nuclear weapon.